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Showcase games serve purpose for underclassmen, while showing off N.C. complex

Brandon Jewett of Frontier connects for a hit in the baseball game. The Blue team beat the White 14-11 in an over three hour slug fest. (Photos by Michael J. Petro)

Representatives of high schools that would never ordinarily come down to play games at North Collins received a pleasant surprise as they stepped on to the district’s complex Saturday (Aug. 11) for the inaugural Western New York Baseball and Softball Underclassmen Showcase.

The event may have brought together for the first time some of the area’s most impressive underclassmen in the two sports at one place, but it seemed as though the venue and turf field stood out just as much.

“This complex is phenomenal,” said Brandon Jewett, who will be a senior at Frontier High School this fall. “You can’t ask for a better place to play.”

“It’s beautiful,” said J.D. Andresseen, a soon-to-be junior at St. Mary’s, who even took note of how fun it was to slide on the all-turf surface. “It’s a really nice complex.”

The North Collins community could certainly hold its head up high as a hidden gem was revealed to players and coaches and their families, along with a number of college scouts that were also in attendance. Judging from the banter around the complex, plenty of those in attendance took notice.

“It’s nice because a lot of these teams never see us — they’re mostly ECIC teams ad we don’t play them,” said North Collins head baseball coach Paul Kellner, an assistant with the White squad, whose Eagles team plays in the CCAA. “For them to come out here and see this, it’s an eye opener for them. I think they really enjoyed playing out here and we certainly enjoyed having them.”

There were plenty of gems on the school’s diamonds, as well. Baseball and softball from Section VI, and in a few cases even beyond that, united on the fields of North Collins to put on an impressive display.

The boys bashed the ball around the park in a 14-11 win for the Blue Team over the White squad, while the girls made it a clean sweep for the teams in Blue in a come-from-behind 11-5 victory. Both games were nine innings.

“It was a good experience to see all of the competition from all of the different areas and sections,” Andresseen said.

Andresseen finished off the slugfest of a baseball game, throwing a scoreless inning in the ninth for the Blue team. He also enjoyed a big day at the plate, being named the team’s Offensive Most Valuable Player.

Joining him as award winners from the Blue side were Brian Ratajczak of Newfane, who hit a towering two-run homer in the top of the ninth to provide insurance after the White had cut the lead to 12-11, and Eric Cartenuto of JFK, who was the Pitching MVP.

The long trip to North Collins for Reston Pettit of Bolivar-Richburg was made worthwhile when he was named the game’s overall MVP with a hitting and pitching performance that helped stake the Blue to an early 7-0 lead.

Players valued the opportunity to take part in the showcase, which was the brain child of North Collins coach Rob Catalino in his attempt to get more area talent noticed.

The former baseball player at St. Bonaventure envisioned this event as an opportunity for potential college players to exhibit their ability and get a better feel for where they may best fit playing beyond the high school level. He feels there’s plenty of talent; just not enough opportunity. He was hoping this helped get some players the attention they deserved.

“It’s a once in a lifetime chance,” said Jewett, who played alongside Frontier teammate Evan Johnston. “These kind of chances don’t come around very often. You’ve got to take advantage of showing what you can do in the game. You have got to go up there, have a good at bat, and make the plays. It’s just an honor to be able to play in this game, and it was a blast meeting new guys from other teams.”

Jewett certainly took advantage of the opportunity with two solid innings on the mound, allowing only one run, and slugging a two-run triple to help close the gap for the White team late in the game. He was named MVP Pitcher for the White squad.

Winning the Offensive MVP was Alex Kovacs, one of six St. Joe’s players to take part in the game after helping the program win a Monsignor Martin title in the spring. St. Joe’s Paul Nasca also coached in the game. Drew Borowski of Warsaw was awarded for some nice plays in the outfield with the Defensive MVP award.

“It’s a fun game to coach. There’s a nice amount of talent out there,” said Kellner, who noted that his senior-to-be Jared Keppel at North Collins who played in the baseball game was also impressive. “We wish we didn’t have as many mistakes early on but it is what it is. What matters is that the kids had fun.”

Also representing the locals in the baseball game were Eden’s Brad Palmerton, who played some second base, and Lake Shore’s Matt Brzozowiec and Tyler Freeman, each of whom got a chance to pitch in the contest.
Jessica Ackley of Lake Shore delivers a pitch in the softball game at Saturday’s Western New York Underclassmen Showcase in North Collins.

In the softball game, after trailing 3-1, the Blue squad scored five runs in the sixth inning and never surrendered the lead from there to win the nightcap. The softball game got underway as the over three hour baseball game came to a conclusion.

Alden’s Kathy Odrobina, a late addition to the event roster, tossed three solid innings, allowing only two runs, to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player award. Maria Gabriel of Sacred Heart also threw three solid innings for the Blue team to earn Pitcher MVP.

Rachel Ziarnowski of Holy Angels enjoyed a multi-hit game to take home Offensive MVP honors for the Blue and Nicole Sorrentino of Lackawanna made a number of dynamic plays at second base to earn the team’s award on defense.

White team MVP awards went to Moriah Harris of state-title winning Clarence after she homered in the game, Madalyn Hillery of West Seneca East for defense and Charlotte Miller of Kenmore West for pitching. The White team also featured three players each from local high schools Hamburg (Sarah Mertowski, Kailee Ramaekers and Allison Salerno) and Lake Shore (Jessica Ackley, Hayley Hammer and Darian Evans).

In the end, the purpose was not to show off the field or any particular school’s program; it was to show off the talent.

“I feel like all of my hard work paid off, working through all of the offseason and in summer ball,” said Andresseen, who also plays for the East Coast Grays national team and A-Turf showcase team. “I guess it all showed off.”

That’s exactly what Catalino hoped for when he concocted the idea.
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